An international team of astronomers has been able to determine where the mysterious Fast Radio Bursts come from, using optical and radio telescopes. The new findings solve a problem that had intrigued the scientific community for the last years. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are bright radio flashes that generally last only a few milliseconds, explains Phys.org, their origin is unknown since they are very difficult to detect. Only 16 FRBs had been detected before the new findings were published.
Researchers used data obtained by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)’s 64-m Parkes radio telescope in Australia. On April 2015, an International alert was triggered and other telescopes such as the CSIRO’ Australian Telescope Compact Array, joined the search.
“In the past FRBs have been found by sifting through data months or even years later. By that time it is too late to do follow up observations,” said Dr Evan Keane, Project Scientist at the Square Kilometre Array Organisation and the lead scientist behind the study, according to Phys.
In order to make the process of catching FRBs more efficient, the team developed a new method that informs other telescopes to collaborate with the search, after the first initial flashes of a radio burst are detected. As a result, the team of researchers was able to obtain data that is a hundred times more precise, in comparison with previous events.
Findings open the doors for dark energy investigation
It was determinant for researchers to quickly locate the FRB and identify the host galaxy, says Benjamin Stappers, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, according to Phys. That being said, the new findings could present new opportunities for discovering missing matter and even dark energy, he added.
New projects are currently being planned, alongside the collaboration of telescopes like eMerlin and MeerKAT, in order to specifically obtain a localization from the bursts itself, explained Professor Stappers.
Previously, researchers had been able to obtain the dispersion measure of FRBs. With new data of distance, they can now measure how dense the material is between the point of origin and Earth, in order to establish comparisons with the current model of the distribution of matter in the universe, said Dr. Simon Johnston, co-author of the study, from CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science Division, to Phys.
Astronomers explained that the current model determines that the universe is made of 70 percent dark energy, 25 percent dark matter and 5 percent ordinary matter. With the newly obtained data, researchers could be able to weight the universe and the matter it contains.